Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-569ts Total loading time: 0.625 Render date: 2022-09-25T13:00:12.166Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

A 2500-Yr late Holocene multi-proxy record of vegetation and hydrologic changes from a cave guano-clay sequence in Sw Romania

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Bogdan P. Onac*
School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA Department of Geology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, China
Simon M. Hutchinson
School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of Salford, Salford M5 4WT, UK
Anca Geantă
Department of Geology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, China
Ferenc L. Forray
Department of Geology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, China
Jonathan G. Wynn
School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA
Alexandra M. Giurgiu
Department of Geology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, China
Ioan Coroiu
Department of Taxonomy and Ecology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
*Corresponding author at: 4202 E. Fowler Ave., NES 107, Tampa, FL 33620 USA. E-mail (B.P. Onac).


We provide sedimentological, geochemical, mineral magnetic, stable carbon isotope, charcoal, and pollen-based evidence from a guano/clay sequence in Gaura cu Muscă Cave (SW Romania), from which we deduced that from ~ 1230 BC to ~ AD 1240 climate oscillated between wet and dry. From ~ 1230 BC to AD 1000 the climate was wetter than the present, prompting flooding of the cave, preventing bats from roosting, and resulting in a slow rate of clay accumulation. The second half of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was generally drier; the cave experienced occasional flash flooding in between which maternity bat roosts established in the cave. One extremely wet event occurred around AD 1170, when Fe/Mn and Ti/Zr ratios show the highest values coincident with a substantial increase of sediment load in the underground stream. The mineral magnetic characteristics for the second part of the MWP indicate the partial input of surface-sourced sediments reflecting agricultural development and forest clearance in the area. Pollen and microcharcoal studies confirm that the overall vegetation cover and human land use have not changed much in this region since the medieval times.

Original Articles
University of Washington

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Almenar, D., Aihartza, J., Goiti, U., Salsamendi, E., and Garin, I. (2009). Foraging behaviour of the long-fingered bat Myotis capaccinii: implications for conservation and management. Endangered Species Research 8, 6978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Austin, A.T., and Vitousek, P.M. (1998). Nutrient dynamics on a precipitation gradient in Hawaii. Oecologia 113, 519529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Batina, M.C., and Reese, C.A. (2011). A Holocene pollen record recovered from a guano deposit: Round Spring Cavern, Missouri, USA. Boreas 40, 332341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bird, M.I., and Pousai, P. (1997). Variations of δ13C in the surface soil organic carbon pool. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 11, 3 313322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bird, M.I., Boobyer, E.M., Bryant, C., Lewis, H.A., Paz, V., and Stephens, W.E. (2007). A long record of environmental change from bat guano deposits in Makangit Cave, Palawan, Philippines. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 98, 5969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birks, H.J., Heiri, O., Seppä, H., and Bjune, A.E. (2010). Strengths and weaknesses of quantitative climate reconstructions based on Late-Quaternary biological proxies. The Open Ecology Journal 3, 68110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boroneanţ, V. (2000). The Archeology of the Romanian's Caves and Mines. cIMeC, Bucharest.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Boşcaiu, N., and Lupsşa, V. (1967a). Palynological studies in Veterani Cave, Danube Gorge. Contribuţii Botanice 39–46, (in Romanian).Google Scholar
Boşcaiu, N., and Lupsşa, V. (1967b). Palynological research in the “Haiducilor” Cave near the Herculaneum Spa (Romania). Revue Roumaine de Biologie, Série de Botanique 12, 2–3 137140.Google Scholar
Boşcaiu, N., and Resmeriţă, I. (1969). Xerophylous herbaceous vegetation of the Eşelniţa–Mraconiei valleys alluvia in the Danube Gorge. Studii şi Cercetări de Biologie, Seria Botanică 21, 3 209216.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Boşcaiu, N., Lupsşa, V., and Boroneanţ, V. (1971). Sporo-pollen analysis of sediment in Climente Cave (Danube Gorge). Studii şi Cercetări de Biologie, Seria Botanică 23, 5 401403.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Botosşăneanu, L., Negrea, A., and Negrea, Ş. (1967). Recherches sur les grottes du Banat et l'Oltenie, Roumanie (1959–1962). Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris.Google Scholar
Bronk Ramsey, C. (2009). Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51, 1 337360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carrión, J.S., Scott, L., and Marais, E. (2006). Environmental implications of pollen spectra in bat droppings from southeastern Spain and potential for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 140, 175186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheng, T.C. (1986). General Parasitology. Academic Press, Orlando.Google Scholar
Ciocârlan, V. (2000). Illustrated Flora of Romania (Pteridophyta et Spermatophyta). Editura Ceres, Bucharest.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Connor, S.E., Ross, S.A., Sobotkova, A., Herries, A.I.R., Mooney, S.D., Longford, C., and Iliev, I. (2013). Environmental conditions in the SE Balkans since the Last Glacial Maximum and their influence on the spread of agriculture into Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews 68, 200215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Constantin, S., Bojar, A.-V., Lauritzen, S.-E., and Lundberg, J. (2007). Holocene and Late Pleistocene climate in the sub-Mediterranean continental environment: a speleothem record from Poleva Cave Southern Carpathians, Romania. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 243, 322338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cuculić, V., Cukrov, N., Kwokal, Ž., and Mlakar, M. (2011). Distribution of trace metals on anchialine caves of Adriatic Sea, Croatia. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 95, 253263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Das, O., Wang, Y., and Hsieh, Y.-P. (2010). Chemical and carbon isotope characteristics of ash and smoke derived from burning of C 3 and C 4 grasses. Organic Geochemistry 41, 263269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dearing, J.A., Danner, R.F.L., Hay, K., Lees, J.A., Loveland, P.J., Maher, B.A., and O'Grady, K. (1996). Frequency-depended susceptibility measurements of environmental materials. Geophysical Journal International 124, 228240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Des Marais, D.J., Mitchell, J.M., Meinschein, W.G., and Hayes, J.M. (1980). The carbon isotope biogeochemistry of the individual hydrocarbons in bat guano and the ecology of the insectivorous bats in the region of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 44, 20752086.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diefendorf, A.F., Mueller, K.E., Wing, S.L., Koch, P.L., and Freeman, K.H. (2010). Global patterns in leaf 13C discrimination and implications for studies of past and future climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107, 57385743.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Drăguşin, V., Staubwasser, M., Hoffmann, D.L., Ersek, V., Onac, B.P., and Veres, D. (2014). Constraining Holocene hydrological changes in the Carpathian–Balkan region using speleothem δ18O and pollen-based temperature reconstructions. Climate of the Past 10, 381427. 10.5194/cpd-10-381-2014 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellwood, B.B., Harrold, F.B., Benoist, S.L., Thacker, P., Otte, M., Bonjean, D., Long, G.J., Shahin, A.M., Hermann, R.P., and Grandjean, F. (2004). Magnetic susceptibility applied as an age-depth-climate relative dating technique using sediments from Scladina cave, a Late Pleistocene cave site in Belgium. Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 283293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Faier Crivineanu, M., Dumitrel, G.A., Silaghi Perju, D., Jinescu, C., and Negrea, A. (2012). The influence of environmental factors on sedimentation dynamics of heavy metals in surface waters. Revista de Chimie 63, 10 10511055.Google Scholar
Fairchild, I.J., and Baker, A. (2012). Speleothem Science: From Process to Past Environments. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farquhar, G.D., Ehleringer, J.R., and Hubick, K.T. (1989). Carbon isotopes discrimination and photosynthesis. Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology 40, 503537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feurdean, A., Liakka, J., Vanni"re, B., Marinova, E., Hutchinson, S.M., and Mosburgger, V. (2013). 12,000-years of fire regime drivers in the lowlands of Transylvania (Central-Eastern Europe): a data-model approach. Quaternary Science Reviews 81, 4861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Firbas, F. (1949). Spät- und nacheiszeitliche Waldgeschichte Mitteleur- opas nördlich der Alpen, Band I. Fischer, Jena, .Google Scholar
Feurdean, A., Marinova, E., Nielses, A.B., Liakka, J., Veres, D., Hutchinson, S.M., Braun, M., Timar-Gabor, A., Astalos, C., Mossburgger, V., and Hickler, T. (2014). Origin of the forest steppe and exceptional grassland diversity in Transylvania (central-eastern Europe). Journal of Biogeography, 10.1111/jbi/12468 .Google Scholar
(1972). Flora of Serbia. (15.), 1972–2012. Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, Belgrade..Google ScholarPubMed
Forbes, M.S., and Bestland, E.A. (2006). Guano-derived deposits within the sandy cave fills of Naracoorte, South Australia. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology 30, Special Issue 1 129146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geantă, A., Tanţău, I., Tămaş, T., and Johnston, V.E. (2012). Palaeoenvironmental information from the palynology of an 800 year old bat guano deposit from Măgurici Cave, NW Transylvania (Romania). Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 174, 5766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giurginca, A., Munteanu, C.-M., Stanomir, M.L., Niculescu, G., and Giurginca, M. (2010). Assessment of potentially toxic metal concentrations in karst areas of the Mehedinţi Plateau Geopark (Romania). Carpathian Journal of Earth and Environmental Sciences 5, 103110.Google Scholar
Giurgiu, A., and Tămaş, T. (2013). Mineralogical data on bat guano deposits from three Romanian caves. Studia UBB Geologia 58, 2 1318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goeury, C. (1997). GPalWin: gestion, traitement et représentation des données de la paléoécologie. Actes du XVe symposium de l'Association des Palynologues de Langue Française, Lyon.31.Google Scholar
Graening, G.O. (2005). Trophic structure of Ozark Cave streams containing endangered species. Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies 34, 317.Google Scholar
Hammer, Ø., Harper, D.A.T., and Ryan, P.D. (2001). PAST: paleontological statistics software package for education and data analysis. Palaeontologia Electronica 4, 1(9 pp. Scholar
Hatté, C., Gauthier, C., Rousseau, D.-D., Antoine, P., Fuchs, M., Lagroix, F., Marković,, S.B., Moine, O., and Sima, A. (2013). Excursions to C 4 vegetation recorded in the Upper Pleistocene loess of Surduk (Northern Serbia): an organic isotope geochemistry study. Climate of the Past 9, 10011014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hillman, G. (1978). On the origins of domestic Rye – Secale cereale: the finds from Aceramic Can Hassan III in Turkey. Anatolian Studies 28, 157174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Imbrea, I., Nicolin, A., and Niculescu, M. (2008). Studies concerning the rock vegetation in the Cheile Globului Nature Reserve (south-western Romania). Bulletin of the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca, Agriculture 65, 1 141146.Google Scholar
Johnston, V.E., McDermott, F., and Tămaş, T. (2010). A radiocarbon dated bat guano deposit from N.W. Romania: implications for the timing of the Little Ice Age and Medieval Climate Anomaly. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 291, 217227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jun, C.-P. (2012). The occurrence of helminth egg from bat guano in Gossi Cave, Korea. Quaternary International 279–280, 228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kadlec, J., Chadima, M., Lenka, L., Hercman, H., Osintsev, A., and Oberhannsli, H. (2008). Clastic cave deposits in Botovskaya cave (Eastern Siberia, Russian Federation). Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 70, 3 142155.Google Scholar
Kohn, M.J. (2010). Carbon isotope compositions of terrestrial C3 plants as indicators of (paleo)ecology and (paleo)climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107, 1969119695.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Krull, E.S., Skjemstad, J.O., Graetz, D., Grice, K., Dunning, W., Cook, G., and Parr, J.F. (2003). 13C-depleted charcoal from C4 grasses and the role of occluded carbon in phytoliths. Organic Geochemistry 34, 13371352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kunz, T.H., Murray, S.W., and Fuller, N.W. (2012). Bats. White, W.B., Culver, D.C. Encyclopedia of Caves Academic Press, Oxford.4054.Google ScholarPubMed
Leroy, S., and Simms, M. (2006). Iron age to medieval entomogamous vegetation and Rhinolophus hipposideros roost in South-Eastern Wales (UK). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 237, 418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luca, S.A. (2004). Archeology and History (I). Discoveries in the Caraş-Severin County. Ed. Economică, Sibiu.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Maher, B.A. (1988). Magnetic properties of some synthetic sub-micron magnetites. Geophysical Journal 94, 8396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maher, L.J.J. (2006). Environmental information from guano palynology of insectivorous bats of the central part of the United States of America. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 237, 1931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marusek, J.A. (2010). A Chronological Listing of Early Weather Events. Science & Public Policy Institute, Reprint Series, Haymarket, .Google Scholar
Matacă, S. (2005). The Iron Gates Natural Park. Flora, vegetation and nature protection. (PhD Thesis)Romanian Academy, Institute of Biology, Bucharest.Google Scholar
McFadgen, B.G. (1982). Dating New Zealand archaeology by radiocarbon. New Zealand Journal of Science 25, 379392.Google Scholar
McFarlane, D.A., Lundberg, J., and Fincham, A.G.A. (2002). Late Quaternary paleoecological record from caves of southern Jamaica: West Indies. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 64, 117125.Google Scholar
Miko, S., Huhta, M., and Kapelj, S. (2002). Environmental baseline geochemistry of the sediments and percolating waters in Modric Cave, Croatia. Acta Carsologica 31, 1 135149.Google Scholar
Mizutani, H., McFarlane, D.A., and Kabaya, Y. (1992). Carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures of bat guanos as a record of past environments. Mass Spectrometry 40, 6782.Google Scholar
Munteanu, R., and Bălănescu, D. (1999). Air and rainfall temperature regime in the space of Banat in the year 1997. Proceedings of the Regional Conference of Geography “Danube-Criş-Mureş-Tisa Euroregion-Geoeconomical Space of Sustainable Development”, West University, Timişoara.141155.Google Scholar
Nagy, Z.L., and Postawa, T. (2010). Seasonal and geographical distribution of cave-dwelling bats in Romania: implications for conservation. Animal Conservation 14, 1 7486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Negrea, A., and Negrea, Ş. (1979). The caves of the Danube Gorge and their terrestrial fauna. Orghidan, T., Negrea, Ş. Speologia Academiei RSR, Bucureşti.3075.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
O'Leary, M.H. (1988). Carbon isotopes in photosynthesis. BioScience 38, 5 328336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Onac, B.P., and Forti, P. (2011). Minerogenetic mechanisms occurring in the cave environments: an overview. International Journal of Speleology 40, 2 7998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Onac, B.P., Zaharia, L., Kearns, J., and Veres, D. (2006). Vashegyite from Gaura cu Muscă Cave (Locvei Mountains, Romania): a new and rare phosphate occurrence. International Journal of Speleology 35, 2 6773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Onac, B.P., Forray, F.L., Wynn, J.G., and Giurgiu, A.M. (2014). Guano-derived δ13C-based paleo-hydroclimate record from Gaura cu Muscă Cave, SW Romania. Environmental Earth Sciences 71, 40614071.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Panno, S.V., Curry, B.B., Wang, H., Hackley, K.C., Liu, C.-L., Lundstrom, C., and Zhou, J. (2004). Climate change in southern Illinois, USA, based on the age and the δ13C of organic matter in cave sediments. Quaternary Research 61, 301313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pigott, C.D., and Huntley, J.P. (1980). Factors controlling the distribution of Tilia cordata at the northern limits of its geographical range. New Phytologist 84, 145164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pop, E., Boşcaiu, N., and Lupsşa, V. (1970). Spoor-pollen analysis of sediments from Cuina Turcului–Dubova. Studii şi Cercetări de Istorie Veche 21, 1 3134.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Bayliss, A., Beck, J.W., Blackwell, P.G., Bronk Ramsey, C., Buck, C.E., Cheng, H., Edwards, R.L., Friedrich, M., Guilderson, T.P., Haflidason, H., Hatté, C., Heaton, T.J., Hogg, A.G., Hofmann, D.L., Hogg, A., Hughen, K.A., Kaiser, K.F., Kromer, B., Manning, S.W., Niu, M., Reimer, R.W., Richards, D.A., Scott, E.M., Southon, J.R., Staff, R.A., Turney, C.S.M., and van der Plicht, J. (2013). IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55, 4 18691887.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sandu, I., Pescaru, V.I., and Poiană, I. (2008). The Climate of Romania. Editura Academiei Române, BucureŞti.(in Romanian).Google Scholar
Shahack-Gross, R., Berna, F., and Karkanas, P. (2004). Bat guano and preservation of archaeological remains in cave sites. Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 12591272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soepboer, W., and Lotter, A.F. (2009). Estimating past vegetation openness using pollen–vegetation relationships: a modelling approach. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 153, 102107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sroubek, P., Diehl, J.F., Kadlec, J., and Valoch, K. (2001). A Late Pleistocene palaeoclimatic record based on mineral magnetic properties of the entrance facies sediments of Kulna Cave, Czech Republic. Geophysical Journal International 147, 247262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sroubek, P., Diehl, J.F., and Kadlec, J. (2007). Historical climatic record from flood sediments deposited in the interior of Spiralka Cave, Czech Republic. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 251, 547562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stevanović, V. (1996). Native Botanical Garden. Angelus, J. Djerdap National Park – Long History of Nature and Man IP Ecolibri, Ministry of Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia, National Park “Djerdap”, Belgrade.7282.(in Serbian).Google Scholar
Teodoreanu, E. (2013). Hydro-climatic events during the Little Climatic Optimum in Romania. Romanian Journal of Geography 57, 1 38.Google Scholar
Wurster, C.M., McFarlane, D.A., and Bird, M.I. (2007). Spatial and temporal expression of vegetation and atmospheric variability from stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of bat guano in the southern United States. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71, 33023310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wurster, C.M., Patterson, W.P., McFarlane, D.A., Wassenaar, L.I., Hobson, K.A., Athfield, N.B., and Bird, M.I. (2008). Stable carbon and hydrogen isotopes from bat guano in the Grand Canyon, USA, reveal Younger Dryas and 8.2 ka events. Geology 36, 683686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yu, F., Zong, Y., Lloyd, J.M., Huang, G., Leng, M.J., Kendrick, C., Lamb, A.L., and Yim, W.W.-S. (2010). Bulk organic δ13C and C/N as indicator for sediment sources in the Pearl River delta and estuary, southern China. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 87, 618630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

A 2500-Yr late Holocene multi-proxy record of vegetation and hydrologic changes from a cave guano-clay sequence in Sw Romania
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

A 2500-Yr late Holocene multi-proxy record of vegetation and hydrologic changes from a cave guano-clay sequence in Sw Romania
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

A 2500-Yr late Holocene multi-proxy record of vegetation and hydrologic changes from a cave guano-clay sequence in Sw Romania
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *